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About Me

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  1. As a longtime physical keyboard lover I waited with a lot of anticipation for the Pro1. And waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, January 2020, when the $650 I spent on the phone seemed the most ridiculous, the phone arrived. Nevertheless, I was excited and immediately unboxed. Right away I had such a miserable and frustrating time applying the screen protector. Never had such a pain with other phones but no matter what I did countless bubbles and dust particles made the final product look like total crap. The whole sheet ended up crumpled in a mess in the garbage can. This would set the tone of my entire experience with the Fxtec Pro1. I am here now to vent - I really towed the line to friends and family for awhile. I really wanted to LOVE this phone. Now it is broken in two pieces in a trash can and I am back on my old G5. The Good aka Not a lot of meat on this bone. - The keyboard is cool when you finally are in a position to use it - Good battery life - AMOLED display looks nice I wish I could say more. This is all that comes to mind. The Bad aka Total UX Death by a thousand clunky cuts. - The curved screen edges. Jesus god, this one design 'feature' is probably the main reason I am done with this phone. The accidental touches are CONSTANT. Forget using the phone one handed unless you can palm a basketball. Yes, it is possible to hold the phone without touching the screen but it is not intuitive and 9/10 times your natural hold will be an issue. They also make opening the phone's keyboard even more difficult. - Accidental touches. In addition to the touches from the curved screen edges I am CONSTANTLY hitting buttons with my cheek during calls. I have never had another phone with this issue. Its like it just randomly decides to activate the touchscreen. Speaker, Mute, whatever my cheek grazes. - Big and heavy. The price for the physical keyboard. I knew there would be some bulk from the keyboard but I saw the specs and did not expect it to be that big a problem. Sitting next to any other phone it is pretty dramatic. This compounds with the awkward way you have to hold it thanks to the curved edges; you really notice the heft. - Accidentally button presses. The wake button is dead center along the right hand edge of the phone. So the natural place you'd hold the phone one handed, and a number of other instances (like getting leverage to open the keyboard) causes you to frequently hit the button. - Software is clunky. Frequently had issues where the keyboard would stop working & had to reset the phone. When the phone is in landscape with the keyboard open, you could only wake the device with the keyboard sometimes. Other times, you had to reach behind for the sleep button, swipe open, resume your task. The stock camera app is grotesque. - The UX for opening the keyboard is awful. Mechanically the design seems solid enough but the action itself is like opening a mouse trap. With one hand it is a difficult and perilous maneuver at best. Even with two hands you always have to be "holding on" or the phone is likely to jump away from you. The above constantly pokes at you, slowly but surely making you miserable. Today, the phone fell from about 2 ft (box spring+mattress) to the floor. The edge of the screen cracked pretty good and with it, my patience for the phone. I tore it in half and threw it away. No, I don't typically do that to my phones. Yes, it was cathartic. I am sorry FXtec, I will still be looking at the Pro2 if it ever exists. But I no longer us the Pro1. Thanks for letting me vent everyone, -
  2. An early review of the F(x)tec Pro1. Early in my experience, (about a week) and early in the release timeline, probably. 1: Background I have been a fan of phones with Keyboards since at least 2002 with the Palm Treo 755p. After that, I had the Palm Treo Po (windows mobile), Samsung Epic 4G (my first horizontal slider and first android phone), and Motorola Photon Q. In 2015, I got tired of waiting for another high-end keyboard phone, and tried a Samsung Note 4, hoping that the larger screen real estate would make up for the missing keyboard. In 2017, when the Indiegogo campaign was launched for the keyboard mod, I backed it right away (in February). I bought a Z2 Force in October, expecting to use it with the keyboard mod soon thereafter. So I am a fairly die-hard keyboard phone user, but not as committed as some. This is a very personal review. My use cases may not match yours, so take these things with a grain of salt. I am a software engineer that uses linux all day. The review will generally go from least to most interesting... The keyboard is at the end. 2: Software 2.1: Android This is my first device with android 9, and I assume most of the differences between this and the Z2 force are due to differences in android. Overall, everything is fine. Android behaves very well. It's very smooth, and I haven't run into any crashes. I used the included launcher briefly, and it worked fine, but I've switched back to Nova which also works. The gesture control for switching apps is a bit different, and this is the first android phone I've had without a physical home button, but the software versions work well once I got used to the new gestures. Android Auto has a minor improvement over the Z2: It can work with the screen off and locked. This will save a small amount of battery and may help prevent screen burn-in. 2.1.1: Brightness One weird thing that has changed is the way automatic brightness works. On the Z2 Force, automatic brightness seemed to still take the brightness slider into account, so if a room was bright, and the slider was midway along, the phone would be somewhat less than full brightness in practice, and if the room was dim, the screen was really dim. Android 9 seems to only have one brightness level, and the automatic brightness adjusts it over the full range, ignoring any previous setting. I have found myself repeatedly lowering the brightness. This is probably just ingrained paranoia about battery life, which really hasn't been an issue. 2.1.2: WiFi Calling One disappointment has been the lack of WiFi Calling. I was surprised by this. My Z2 had working WiFi Calling with the same SIM. It was a T-Mobile phone with a T-Mobile ROM, and this is all on an MVNO on T-Mobile, so that may be why it worked on the previous device. I had thought that WiFi Calling was now pretty much a standard OS-level feature, but I guess that could be wrong. Either way, reception is pretty good, actually, so this hasn't been an issue. 2.2: Support for customization I'm very happy that F(x)tec supports customization of the software in so many ways. The ability to root a phone is critical to me. I have been able to customize what I want to, and have also been able to still apply OTA updates by flashing back the stock boot and system images, and then re-rooting afterwards. This and the unlocked bootloader is as good support as I've ever seen from a manufacturer. 3: Hardware 3.1: Body The Pro1 is heavy. There's no getting around this. It's about the same weight as my Z2 with the battery mod, which isn't really that bad. If feels solid. Fits fine in a pocket. The surface of most of the phone is an almost-shiny, but still matte finish. It is not the most slippery phone I've ever owned, but it is the most slippery one that I can't put a case on. I would definitely like to have some sort of a case on this phone, if only to improve the grip. The phone is tricky to hold in general. The curved screen and the awkward location of the fingerprint sensor really make it difficult to get a safe grip on the phone without accidentally providing input somewhere. This has gotten *slightly* better as I've gotten used to the device, but it is still awkward. A rubberized surface like the Photon 4G Q had would make a huge difference. 3.2: Speakers The speakers are definitely loud enough, but sound a little bit over-driven when volume is raised all the way up. Clicked down a couple ticks from max, and they sound pretty good. Definitely tinny, with almost no bass, but for a device this size they're fine. For any serious listening, they won't replace headphones. And hey, there's a headphone jack! 3.3: Performance I'm not sure why or how, but despite having the same chipset, the Pro 1 definitely performs better than the Z2 Force. While setting up the Pro 1, I had occasion to compare several expensive operations side by side, ad the Z2 took more than twice as long to perform some operations. Maybe this is due to other hardware like memory or flash storage, or maybe it's due to android 9, but the results are a nice improvement. 3.4: Battery Life Battery life seems more than acceptable so far. Better than the Z2 Force without the battery mod, but probably not better than it with the mod. 3.5: Screen The screen is very good. Coming from the 1440p on the Z2 Force, I don't notice the lower resolution at all. It looks great. Seems brighter and more vibrant than the Z2 as well. Really seems comparable to the Samsung phones I've had, who are known for their excellent screens. I have not really used it outside, yet, but it is very bright, and there shouldn't be any issues. It is a glossy screen. The included screen protector is also glossy, and has a *slightly* rubbery feel, which is actually quite nice. The only negative about the screen, and in my opinion the worst thing about the phone is the screen curvature. As feared, the curved screen is constantly plagued with unintended inputs. The curve also seems to always have a glare when the phone is held horizontally. Reading text on the curved screen edge is more difficult, and is distracting. Overall, I don't think this is quite a *fatal* flaw, but I do wish that F(x)tec had chosen something more functional over this aesthetic choice. 3.6: Hinge mechanism I've had multiple slider keyboards before, but this is my first hinged keyboard. The mechanism seems strong, like it will last a long time. I just pulled my Photon 4G out to compare, and the Pro 1 is definitely much more difficult to hold securely while opening the screen. Part of this is due to the curved screen, and part is due to where the fingers at the "top" have to be to give the initial input to start the opening movement. It's not a big difference, though. More practice will probably make it more natural. There is a satisfying "thunk" sound when the keyboard is fully opened. There are two small rubber pads that the edge of the screen lands on when the screen is fully open which cushion the impact. When closing, there is a satisfying "clack" as the parts come together. 3.7: Buttons The power button and volume buttons are in the middle of the side of the phone. I would really prefer it if they were higher on the side. There is very little to distinguish the buttons by feel other than size. Some sort of texture difference might have been nice, especially since they are so close together. The camera button *is* textured differently, but it doesn't actually need to be, since it's at the corner of the phone. The camera button feels mushy, or like an analog button rather than one with two "steps". With a long-press, it opens the camera app. A soft press focuses, and a harder press takes a picture, but there is no physical feedback that it is done. While it's great that there *is* a camera button, just about everything else about it could be improved. 3.8: Fingerprint sensor The fingerprint sensor works well, but is in a bad location. It is in a location that is extremely easy to touch, since it's on the lower half of the phone, but that also means it's *too* easy to touch. More than half the time when I go to actually use the fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone, the screen either says "Too many attempts. Try again later." or the phone is already unlocked. Neither of these are good outcomes. It's also rather difficult to reach the sensor when the screen is open, since it's then in the middle of the back of the phone. If F(x)tec ever makes another device, I would highly recommend moving the fingerprint sensor somewhere else. Somewhere near the top end of the phone would make it harder to accidentally touch and easier to touch while in landscape. And to head off the counter-argument, there would be far less risk of accidental touches when in landscape than it has now. I've never accidentally hit the camera button, for example. Another better location would be near the camera, where some Samsung phones have it. A case might improve this as well, by making it harder to accidentally hit the sensor. 3.9: Camera I have not used the camera very much, yet. Initial impressions are that it is better than the Z2. The camera app has lots of options. I appreciate especially that the there is an option to disable the shutter sound. Oddly, the icons used in the camera app for the shutter and video appear to be low resolution or fuzzy, somehow. 3.10: Keyboard So after all those complaints, is the phone good? Yes, because of the keyboard. There hasn't been an option for a device like this in years, so the bar is pretty low, but F(x)tec did a really nice job with the keyboard. The feel is excellent, the layout is decent (more below) and the presence of all the modifier keys is great. I already feel fairly comfortable using this keyboard, and I'm sure it will get even better. I typed about half of this review on the phone with the keyboard. The keyboard is a bit wide. I have fairly large hands, and sometimes need to reach a little, but really only when crossing over to a key on the other side. I can comfortably reach to T, G, V with my left thumb and to T, F, V with my right, and can reach one key further without too much trouble. The keyboard size is or course balanced by the screen size, and it's really nice to have all that real estate. I really like this size overall. 3.10.1: Layout The layout of this keyboard could be debated forever. On the plus side, there are keys for just about everything, including six different modifier keys, with three of the on both sides of the keyboard. Control, shift, and yellow arrow are on both sides, while Alt, the F(x)tec key, and the Sym key are only on the left. I have yet to need to use the F or Sym keys at all. The Alt key has been useful, but only as a proxy for the arrow key, which some apps don't recognize. I wish the arrow key did not exist. Most of the keys with yellow symbols would normally just use the shift key. Using a different key for these is distracting and unnecessary, and not supported by all apps. The only remaining symbols are ? and /. It would be better, IMHO, to lose one or both of the arrow keys to have these on a separate key. 3.10.2: Software support As above, support for the yellow arrow key is tied to the android system keyboard layout. Some apps, probably in an attempt to provide customizable support for hardware keys, don't use the system layout and either don't see the arrow key at all, or see it as a regular key and not a modifier. Fortunately most of these apps do see the Alt key, and can use that instead for the symbols that need it. The Escape key is usually mapped to "Back" in Android, and only a few apps support mapping it back to Escape. I had to switch terminal emulators (to Termux) to get proper support for Escape. Software that I use extensively in landscape mode with the keyboard include: Termux (terminal/ssh client), Cataclysm: Dark Days ahead (roguelike game, can't map the escape key to escape), Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (roguelike game, does not see the arrow key but can map keys), and various other apps to a lesser extent whenever exact input is required. 4: Conclusion This is easily the best keyboard phone I've ever owned. All the previous ones have had significant shortcomings. The Epic 4G had less memory (or was it storage?) than its generational siblings, the Photon had a terrible camera, and of course the older Treos were portrait, and non-sliders, so they sacrificed a ton of screen real estate. And of course being modern, the Pro 1 beats them all by a mile spec-wise. It's also probably the best android phone I've ever owned. The Note 4 might be competitive, objectively, since it was a true flagship and excelled at nearly everything, for its time, but side-by-side I'd pick the Pro 1 nine days out of ten. There is still room for improvement, though. Besides the minor annoyances above, there has never been a true "flagship" horizontal slider phone since the Droid 1. Of course, a "flagship" would probably also mean no headphone jack, no repairability, and a much higher price, so maybe this *is* the best phone we could realistically have. 5. Addendum 5.1: "Just works" Things that weren't mentioned above because they "just work" and have been no problem at all: Bluetooth Wifi sd card GPS
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